At the time the government was observing austerity, the Election Commission’s expenses on foreign travel jumped by eight times as compared to just a 10% jump in the cost of domestic travel.
In a reply to a RTI application, the commission also admitted that it has not adopted the government’s transparency order asking all senior government functionaries to place their travel expenses in the public domain.
“The ECI is a constitutional body and any office memorandum issued by the government does not make automatic effect in the commission and comes into effect only if the same is adopted in the commission. So far as the OM mentioned by you is concerned, it is that the said OM has not been adopted,” the commission said in its reply.
The information provided showed that foreign travel expenses of election commissioners increased from `8.33 lakh in 2008-09 to `62.98 lakh. During the same period, the money spent on travelling within India increased from `63.86 lakh to 70.80 lakh.
Former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi travelled abroad the most with 23 trips. The RTI reply states that Quraishi’s foreign trips were equal to the total foreign travels of his predecessors — Navin B Chawla and N Gopalaswami — and his successor — V S Sampath.
Akshay Rout, director general (communication), with 18 foreign trips gave Quraishi tough competition. These visits were mostly with election commissioners and were mostly in relation to exchange on ideas on conducting polls.